March 30, 2012

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Wallowing in the mud of sin? Let God clean you up

Sean GallagherLittle boys are attracted to mud like metal to a magnet.

I’ve seen this proven true when my first three sons were toddlers. On a recent Sunday afternoon, it was confirmed again by my 2-year-old son, Philip.

It was an unusually warm and sunny day for the middle of March, and Philip wanted to play outside when we got home from church.

It had rained the previous night, and there was a good bit of mud next to our driveway.

As I sat in our breakfast nook, I saw Philip toddle outside and head straight for the mud. Knowing his proclivity to be covered from head to toe in mud once he starts playing in it, I said to him through an open window, “Philip, stay out of the mud.”

He looked at me and dutifully said, “OK, Daddy,” and trotted off.

But a couple of minutes later, Philip was back near the mud. I repeated my warning and he walked away, only to come back again.

After a while, I got tired of this back and forth, and let Philip play in the mud to his heart’s content. Sure enough, when he came inside, his legs and hands were caked with it.

Thankfully, I caught him before he made a mess in the house. I took off his muddy shoes and socks, got a wet rag and carefully wiped him clean of all his filth.

As he went off to play in the basement with his brothers, and I was left alone in the breakfast nook, I reflected on an important Lenten lesson found in this typical toddler incident.

Just as Philip and all little boys are drawn to mud like moths to a light, humanity on this side of heaven just can’t get away from the allure of sin.

Over the centuries, God has tried to draw us away from evil through the words of the prophets, the proclamation of the Gospel by the Apostles and the continuing teachings of the Church.

But he respects our freedom, and lets us choose the dirtiness of sin over the purity of grace that lightens our hearts and fills them with life.

If we looked at God simply through human eyes, we would expect him to reject us when we come back to him covered in muck after we have ignored his warnings so many times.

I would certainly get frustrated quickly if Philip came to me many times a day to have the mud cleaned off of him.

But God not only is never fatigued by our constant need for his cleansing mercy, he actually rejoices when we come to him for help because Jesus tells us that “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance” (Lk 15:7).

Christ washes us in a special and unrepeatable way in the waters of baptism, which will be renewed soon in Easter Vigils across the archdiocese.

After that, it happens in the healing intimacy of the sacrament of reconciliation. In the secrecy of a confessional, Christ comes to us and lovingly pours anew over our souls the merciful and cleansing water that flowed from his pierced side on the Cross.

So don’t be discouraged when you find yourself again and again covered in the mud of your bad habits and usual sins.

Go to Jesus, especially in confession, and he will be there to clean you up. †

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